I’ve been meaning to do this post for ages, what finally spurred me on was the discussion about the new comment policy on the What I Wore blog (thanks to Sal for linking to it). If you haven’t heard about it, Jessica at WiW introduced a new comment policy that basically required all comments to be positive and precluded even constructive criticism. Many of her readers (who had requested the introduction of comments in the first place) were quite up in arms about this. I don’t want to comment on the What i Wore controversy specifically, because I don’t read the blog (I used to occasionally when I first started blogging but its aesthetic and writing style didn’t ultimately speak to me enough), instead I want to talk about the role of critique in fashion blogging more generally.
Basically, I think critique is unequivocally a good thing, and if anything, there should be MORE of it, not less. By critique I mean respectful, thoughtful and, if possible, evidence based criticism or disagreement. Obviously it’s not on to be rude or bitch about people behind their backs.
The part of the blogosphere that I ‘live’ in is so incredibly positive, both in terms of comments and posts. We all like to receive encouragement and it feels nice to give it too. I make time regularly to look through the blogs I follow of the wardrobe remix pool on flickr and fire off little bullets of niceness along the lines of ‘love your dress!’. Dave always laughs at my lack of substance and overuse of exclamation marks, but I know when I receive such comments they always brighten my day, and make blogging worthwhile. Similarly, I like to do posts that go ‘Look at this, it’s amazing!’ and are full of gushing positivity. There’s so much great stuff to share and it feels particularly good when you get the word out a small craft business or artist that aren’t yet well known.
So I’m all for positivity, but I don’t think that should be all there is. And it does sometimes feel like that, like on many blogs criticism isn’t acceptable in any form. I can remember at least two instances where I started writing comments on posts where I disagreed with the blogger, but then decided to discard my reply because I thought it would be taken the wrong way and people might get annoyed/offended. I’d hate to see others self-censor themselves in this way, on my blog anyway.
There was an interesting comment in the WiW thread which suggested that the issue may be a cultural thing in that the blogosphere is US-dominated and Americans are generally so much more positive about everything and may therefore take criticism to heart more, simply because it stands out more. Whereas us Europeans are more cynical and disagree with each other all the time, so we’re used to it and don’t get offended. I think there may be some truth in that.
In terms of outfit posts, what’s wrong with someone going ‘Have you tried wearing this top with a cardigan?’ or ‘I think this would look better with sandals’ or whatever? If someone goes to the effort of masking a suggestion, does it not at least deserve to be considered? Who knows, it may work and lead to great things! Then again it may not, but noone is asking anyone to follow all advice, after all it’s just one person’s opinion and style is subjective and everyone should dress in whatever makes them feel best. But that surely is not a reason to avoid critique altogether!
I think critique is even more important for non-outfit based posts. I put a lot of thinking and effort into my ‘arguments and musing‘ posts, and a well-thought out comment shows me that people have read and engaged with what I had to say, regardless of whether the commenter agrees with me or not. I love to be challenged in my opinions or to read a different perspective on things, it keeps my thinking fresh. Without criticism and challenge we don’t develop and our opinions become lazy. So please, critique away!